Pacific Beach Town Council meeting focus: Traffic dangers on Foothill Blvd.

This ‘slide’ in Tom Coat's presentation reads: ‘While some families have been driven away from Foothill Boulevard because of the street, others plead with drivers to respect the speed limit. With an elementary school and preschool a block away, it is not uncommon to see a parent look in both directions, then take a child’s hand to run across the street as they make their way to school. Foothill Boulevard does not have a single crosswalk on its six-tenths of a mile stretch from Beryl to Turquoise streets.’
(Steven Mihailovich)

If you were born 27 years ago, there’s a good chance that by now, you’ve completed your education and taken some strides on your career path, moved out of the house and perhaps even started a family of your own.

And if you attended the monthly Pacific Beach Town Council meeting on Jan. 15 at Crown Point Jr. Music Academy, you would have also learned that the perils to life, limb and property faced daily by residents along Foothill Boulevard from unchecked speeding traffic barreling downhill is the same today as it was on the day you were born: a threat unchanged in a generation.

Although detailing the multiple hazards — especially to children and the many senior citizens living on the street — in a 15-minute presentation, Tom Coat, a community activist who lives on Foothill Boulevard expressed his belief that isolated efforts to find answers to specific risks were converging for a grand solution.

Referring to a Beach & Bay Press (newspaper) article about the dangers on Foothill Boulevard published in July 1993, Coat said: “That’s 27 years the residents of this area have been begging and begging the City for relief, for traffic calming, trying to make their street safer. I think now is the time we can finally get this done.”

Foothill Boulevard is an inclined, winding two-lane residential roadway that stretches one kilometer (six-tenths of a mile) between Turquoise and Beryl streets. Because it handles 20 percent of the total daily trips into Pacific Beach from outside the community, Foothill Boulevard is designated as a “major connecting road.”

On a screen behind him, Coat exhibited four photos he took within a span of 10 minutes on Jan. 9 of cars racing 40 miles per hour or more past an electronic speed gauge that displays the drivers speed underneath a sign of the posted 25 mph speed limit.

Citing an AAA study, Coat said the 25 percent chance of a severe injury to a pedestrian hit by a car driving 23 mph jumps to 75 percent when the car is moving 40 mph: “If you are an elderly person, if you are over 70 years old and you are hit by a car going 40 mph, your chance of a severe injury from which you are likely never to recover is virtually certain.”

Coat’s anecdotal evidence of near misses was collaborated by resident Jeff Tandy in the audience. Having raised three children into adulthood since moving to Foothill Boulevard in 1995, Tandy described taking mad dashes across the street to walk his children to the nearby school, witnessing six accidents at the Loring Street intersection and finding a wrecked Cadillac on his driveway after it had spun in from a collision.

“It’s been just kind of a nightmare since we moved in,” Tandy said.

Speeding, tailgating, crashing

Yet the menace along Foothill Boulevard isn’t just for pedestrians trying to cross. According to Coat, driving the posted speed limit results in treacherous tailgating, and the designated bike lanes aren’t for the faint of heart — even staying indoors isn’t fail-safe.

“One of our Thanksgiving guests two years ago had her car broadsided while we were eating dinner,” Coat said. “There are big sections of Foothill Boulevard that has available parking but nobody parks there. They know.”

The problems are compounded because simple solutions are off limits since Foothill serves as a major connector. Although speed bumps seem obvious, Coat said the fire department can’t allow them because their emergency vehicles must use the road. Yet turning to the police department is worse.

According to Coat, a federal directive mandates that local authorities measure the average actual speed of vehicles traveling on major roads every seven years and prohibits the ticketing of any vehicle driving under that average. At the last survey, the average speed on Foothill Boulevard was 37 mph.

“The police can’t write a ticket for anything under, say 35 mph,” Coat said. “That’s why those 25 mph signs are nice, but the police aren’t going to enforce it. They can’t. That’s why we’re looking at trying to get traffic calming measures to slow down the speed.”

PB resident Tom Coat describes the inherent dangers along Foothill Boulevard arising from the downhill traffic racing down the street devoid of traffic calming measures.
(Steven Mihailovich)

Coat listed fixes that could help remedy the situation, including simple crosswalks (there are currently none), the flashing yellow variety activated by pedestrians and in particular, traffic roundabouts. When asked however, Coat couldn’t explain the fate of an approved roundabout for Foothill Boulevard at Loring Street and budgeted by the City in 2017.

Roundabouts, etc.

That’s when the meeting became an intersection where predicaments could find their resolutions and the PBTC could achieve one of its prime missions. Eve Anderson chairs the Street & Sidewalks subcommittee of the PB Planning Group and said her group would investigate the issue at her next meeting.

She described modest roundabouts recently installed on Moraga Avenue in the Bay Ho neighborhood and indicated that roundabouts don’t necessarily have to be excessive.

“In Bird Rock, you got a whole big development,” Anderson said. “It’s lovely. You don’t need that on Foothill Boulevard. You just need cement to redirect the cars and it works beautifully.”

Monica Eslamian, PB rep for District 2 City Council member Jennifer Campbell, took the stage after Coat to announce that the lost Foothill Boulevard roundabout was in the design phase.

“The bad news is that the planning process takes four or five years and it’s currently cycled to end in the fall of 2021,” she said. “The good news is that it won’t take them more than three months to get roundabouts installed after the design phase is complete.”

Heartened by the positive feedback, Coat stated that progress was necessary to keep his neighborhood’s cohesion in fighting any opposition from the City or any other quarter.

“The ideas are all good,” he said. “Whatever comes out of these discussions, we need to make sure the residents are behind us, which they are right now.”

PB Street Stewards

Prior to Coat, Aaron Null of the Pacific Beach Street Stewards pitched his group’s project to get residents to take responsibility for their own neighborhood’s cleanliness.

The program is straightforward. Any interested person signs up on the group’s Facebook page and adopts a territory, typically the person’s own block. Then once a week, the individual takes their dog or children for a walk or just walks alone, and picks up the trash on the street and sidewalks.

The simple concept has yielded phenomenal results. Launched in Ocean Beach, the project has migrated to Pacific Beach and recently Point Loma. Null said a fun competition has developed as OB has garnered about 100 volunteers to date, while PB has already reached 125.

“It’s been really cool,” he noted. “This is just three months old and we’re not even into business involvement yet. So we’d love to figure out how to incentivize businesses to maybe take participation.”

Currently only available on Facebook, the Pacific Beach Street Stewards are developing a website as well as an app so “the barrier to entry is super low.” Null said the concept appeals to both idealists wanting to be part of a larger movement and loners who just want to do something worthy.

Null argues that the effect is long-standing however, one that predates Facebook and apps, and even the whole industrial era. “You end up meeting just neighbors,” he said. “Just that interaction, it makes you perk up. The idea of the whole consciousness kind of rising a little bit, is real.”

— PB Town Council next meets 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19 at Crown Point Junior Music Academy, 4033 Ingraham St. at Pacific Beach Drive.